Opponents of the Common Core State Standards who warn against a federal takeover of education are right that education is a local issue that should be firmly within the control of the states. But here’s where they are wrong: the Common Core State Standards were specifically designed to prevent federal control of education. In fact, they were conceived by governors and chief state school officers who were committed to retaining local control over how they educate their students – and that is how they work today.
The trouble started when President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan meddled in a clearly state-led, locally controlled education initiative by tying the Administration’s Race to the Top grants to local efforts to adopt and customize the Common Core State Standards. But while the Administration’s involvement in promoting the standards can and should be opposed, it would be wrong to abandon these standards developed for and by the states. Doing so would only bolster the hand of the Administration and invite federal control into our schools. Instead, states should fight for the Common Core State Standards and not cede this state-led initiative to the Obama Administration. Several governors, including those in Arizona, Tennessee, and Mississippi, have recently stepped up to reinforce their commitment to – and control of – the standards.
Despite the Administration’s attempt to capitalize on a state and local effort, it does not change the facts; a diverse group of local stakeholders with an interest in seeing children succeed – parents, teachers, education experts, policymakers and business people – came together in each of the states to debate and discuss how the standards would make sense for their classrooms. They decided locally whether higher standards made sense for their students. The federal government did not play a role – and had no place – in making that decision.
Local stakeholders continue to make decisions for their states about how to implement higher standards. There are no hard and fast rules. The standards are a set of guidelines for what students should know to help them prepare for their futures as workers and citizens in a highly competitive, global environment.
States choose how the standards should best be put into practice in their school districts. The Common Core State Standards do not dictate curricula, how teachers teach or how students learn. Those are issues for local control and decision.
When the facts about the Common Core State Standards are separated from the myths, all that’s left is a set of higher standards that states can chose to look to when deciding what their students should know and be able to do when they graduate from high school. These are comprehensive standards that have won the support of the vast majority of local leaders, teachers, parents and state business communities. The people who raise and educate our children and will someday hire them have rallied around the Common Core State Standards for what they are: a set of guideposts that prepare all students to take on and succeed in the world after high school.
Given all of this, opposition should not be aimed at the Common Core State Standards, but rather opposition to the Obama Administration’s attempt to co-opt a state-led effort as its own. States should follow the example of Arizona, Tennessee, and Mississippi, to name a few, and exert their rightful control of education and make the standards their own.
Now that we have debunked the myth of a federal takeover, let’s take a look at a few other common myths floating around about the Common Core State Standards.